KNOXVILLE (WATE) – UT’s Pride of the Southland band left for the nation’s capital Wednesday to play in the Inaugural Parade on Friday.
“This is such a huge honor and we get so many cool experiences through the band,” said Rebecca Percy.
More than 300 band members loaded into eight buses to head to Washington D.C.
“We weren’t sure that we were going to get to do it, and so when we got the news that we had been accepted, we started really looking forward to it. It’s probably the most exciting thing I’ve done since I’ve been in the band,” said Tanner Rowell.
The first time the band went was in 1953 for President Dwight Eisenhower. Most recently they marched for President Barack Obama’s first inauguration in 2009. Band members said it is a once in a lifetime opportunity.
“We pride ourselves so much on the tradition and carrying that on in the way that they always have, and it’s really cool to be a part of that. It’s cool to be here at the right time,” said Laiton Pigg.
This is the 15th year the band is playing in the Inaugural Parade, and the band director said it was voluntary for all band members. They actually applied to be in it before the election even took place.
“We’re marching in the name of Democracy, not about politics for Republican or Democrat,” said band director Dr. Don Ryder.
He said none of the band members opted out of the trip, but some could not go because of conflicting schedules. For those participating, it is the experience they are looking forward to.
“Probably 20 years they’ll have to really recall who the president was but they’ll recall each other, what it felt like,” said Ryder.
Rowell added, “The parade is to celebrate the peaceful transition of power which I think is one of the most important aspects of our government.”
The band will be able to spend some free time in Washington D.C. as well, and they plan to return on Saturday.